29 Apr Wednesday
The last three verses of our reading from the first letter of Peter essential restate and quote Isaiah 53, 5-6. The core of this is the enigmatic line, “For by his wounds you have been healed.” What does this mean? The line reflects an ancient understanding of medicine that comes from the remnants of a shamanic religion remaining in classical thinking. Today it is spiritualized. Although in a time of pandemic, the principle strangely is at work when antibodies are taken from someone who has had corvid-19, and then this “wound” is used to create a vaccine, hopefully.
In the original, the word for wounds is more literally the blows and lashes absorbed by the body of Jesus during the day of his arrest, judgement, scourging, way of the cross, and crucifixion. The word μωλωπι, “by his wound”, is actually not the wound itself but rather the blows and strikes that caused the wounds. The language evokes an action, rather than a passive state of things.
The underlying principle here is that suffering can be transformative. When we are confronted with suffering, as is happening now with the entire medical community and in ner families, the deepest parts of our human hearts are touched, and this emotion, really a profound empathy, changes our selfcenteredness into a care for others, even to the point of going out of our way to be there for that person, and setting our own lives on the line at risk.
The authentic disciple of Jesus, therefore, does give in to the temptation to despair or even on the other hand to rise up in an angry protest, only to create more violence. The day of the cross did not in any way take ahold of the fundamental goodness of Jesus, but he accepted it in order to show the inner power of suffering to be transformative.
The question then today is not how can I overcome and dispel the evil of corvid-19, but rather to ask oneself, “What am I going to be able to learn from this that will transform me and give glory to God?” And underlying this question is another question, “How is God at work in me?” Actually, faithful to the verse, “in us?” For more than ever, we are learning one more time the communal nature of evil and the communal nature of the good. We have been taught to believe that the good will prevail, as does the truth.